Philip Larkin

Larkin

                          Philip Larkin

                                    –

                           (1922-1985)

Born in 1922 in Coventry, England. He attended St. John’s College, Oxford.

His first book of poetry, The North Ship, was published in 1945 and, though not particularly strong on its own, is notable insofar as certain passages foreshadow the unique sensibility and maturity that characterizes his later work. In 1946, Larkin discovered the poetry of Thomas Hardy and became a great admirer of his poetry, learning from Hardy how to make the commonplace and often dreary details of his life the basis for extremely tough, unsparing, and memorable poems. With his second volume of poetry, The Less Deceived (1955), Larkin became the preeminent poet of his generation, and a leading voice of what came to be called ‘The Movement’, a group of young English writers who rejected the prevailing fashion for neo-Romantic writing in the style of Yeats and Dylan Thomas. Like Hardy, Larkin focused on intense personal emotion but strictly avoided sentimentality or self-pity.

In 1964, he confirmed his reputation as a major poet with the publication of The Whitsun Weddings, and again in 1974 with High Windows: collections whose searing, often mocking, wit does not conceal the poet’s dark vision and underlying obsession with universal themes of mortality, love, and human solitude. Deeply anti-social and a great lover (and published critic) of American jazz, Larkin never married and conducted an uneventful life as a librarian in the provincial city of Hull, where he died in 1985.

(Poemhunter.com)

Read more detail about his life and work here (Wikipedia)

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  • He had a stutter and poor eyesight as a child.

  • His father was a nazi sympathiser.

  • In his early years as a poet, he was influenced by W.B. Yeats.

  • Although he had a number of lasting relationships with women, he never married.

  • He graduated with first class honours from Oxford.

  • He loved Jazz.

  • He worked as a librarian for forty years (thirty of them in Hull.)

  • Despite his fame, he generally refused to do interviews or give readings.

  • In 1985 he turned down the job as English Poet Laureate, even though it was a position of great honour.

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SOME VIEWS OF PHILIP LARKIN

* Some of these can be shortened for use in an answer. It is not necessary to say who the quote is from.

Alan Brown j notes in Philip Larkin, the poet produced without fanfare “the most technically brilliant and resonantly beautiful, profoundly disturbing yet appealing and approachable, body of verse of any English poet in the last twenty-five years.”

In Nine Contemporary Poets: A Critical Introduction, Peter R. King likewise commends “the scrupulous awareness of a man who refuses to be taken in by inflated notions of either art or life.

J. D. McClatchy in the New York Times Book Review. notes Larkin wrote “in clipped, lucid stanzas, about the failures and remorse of age, about stunted lives and spoiled desires.”

Agenda reviewer George Dekker notes that no living poet “can equal Larkin on his own ground of the familiar English lyric, drastically and poignantly limited in its sense of any life beyond, before or after, life today in England.”

‘could write about the life around him in the language of the society around him.’

David Timms expresses a similar view in his book entitled Philip Larkin. Technically, notes Timms, Larkin was “an extraordinarily various and accomplished poet”

 ‘Poetry should both communicate and give pleasure to the reader,” Peter R. King

Larkin’s best poems “are rooted in actual experiences and convey a sense of place and situation, people and events.” King

Writing in the Chicago Tribune Books, Alan Shapiro points out, “Reading the work in total, we can see how Larkin, early and late, is a poet of great and complex feeling.”

“a poetry from which even people who distrust poetry, most people, can take comfort and delight.” X.J. Kennedy, (New Criterion)

A. N. Wilson draws a similar conclusion in the Spectator: “Perhaps the reason Larkin made such a great name from so small an oeuvre was that he so exactly caught the mood of so many of us. . . . Larkin found the perfect voice for expressing our worst fears.”

Andrew Sullivan feels that Larkin “has spoken to the English in a language they can readily understand of the profound self-doubt that this century has given them.

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Some quotes from the man himself

In 1979 Larkin told the Observer: I think writing about unhappiness is probably the source of my popularity, if I have any. . . .

” The New York Times quotes Larkin as having said that a poem represents the mastering, even if just for a moment, of the pessimism and the melancholy, and enables you—you the poet, and you, the reader—to go on.”

I have no enemies. But my friends don’t like me.”

“what will survive of us is love ”
― Philip LarkinPoems

“Poetry is nobody’s business except the poet’s, and everybody else can fuck off.” 
― Philip Larkin

“I feel the only thing you can do about life is to preserve it, by art if you’re an artist, by children if you’re not.” 
― Philip LarkinPhilip Larkin: Letters to Monica

“How little our careers express what lies in us, and yet how much time they take up. It’s sad, really.” 
― Philip LarkinPhilip Larkin: Letters to Monica

“I wouldn’t mind seeing China if I could come back the same day.” 
― Philip Larkin

“I’d like to think…that people in pubs would talk about my poems”
― Philip Larkin

“Dear, I can’t write, it’s all a fantasy: a kind of circling obsession.” 
― Philip LarkinPhilip Larkin: Letters to Monica

“I have a sense of melancholy isolation, life rapidly vanishing, all the usual things. It’s very strange how often strong feelings don’t seem to carry any message of action” 
― Philip LarkinPhilip Larkin: Letters to Monica

“Saki says that youth is like hors d’oeuvres: you are so busy thinking of the next courses you don’t notice it. When you’ve had them, you wish you’d had more hors d’oeuvres.”
― Philip LarkinPhilip Larkin: Letters to Monica

 “Life has a practice of living you, if you don’t live it.”

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‘Ambulances’

Read the poem here

Read a critical analysis of the poem here

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‘Church Going’

Text of the poem here

Read a critical analysis of the poem here

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‘MCMXIV’

Read the text of the poem here

Read a critical analysis of the poem here

A reading and visual interpretation of Larkin’s MCMXIV

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‘At Grass’

Read the text of the poem here

A BBC reading and analysis of ‘At Grass’.

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‘The Explosion’

Read the text of the poem here

Read a critical analysis of the poem here

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*Exam Centre*

Click here for some resources to help in answering a Leaving Cert question on Philip Larkin.

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Larkin reading his famous poem ‘This Be The Verse.’

*Warning – this poem is not part of the Leaving Cert course*

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English@BanagherCollege

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